Ethiopia rejects fresh invitation for talks on GERD, US steps in again

Sudan’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Yasser Abbas on Friday said that Ethiopia has rejected Sudan’s proposal for a summit of government heads to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Meanwhile, the US has stepped in to intervene with the dilemma and find a different approach.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had invited his Ethiopian and Egyptian counterparts on April 13 hold talks in Khartoum to search for solutions to GERD crisis, after the last round of negotiations hosted by Congo Kinshasa in the first week of April failed.

Abbas stressed that Ethiopia must not aggravate the situation especially as the date of the second filling approaches.

He met with the Chargé d’Affairs of the US Embassy in Khartoum Brian Shawkan to discuss the latest developments in the negotiations and the obstacles standing in the way of resuming them.

Time is running out to reach an agreement on the dam, the Sudanese minister warned, as Ethiopia remains stubborn in its adherence to initiate a second unilateral filling in July which poses a threat to the safety of water installations and the citizens of Sudan, and all economic activities on the banks of the Blue Nile and the main Nile.

The Chargé d’Affairs of the US Embassy expressed his understanding of the Sudanese position, and his country’s desire to reach an agreement satisfactory to all parties.

The US’s intervention this time came through the appointment of Jeffrey Feltman as a special US envoy to the Horn of Africa, with specific goals on top of which are resolving the GERD crisis through a new negotiating path that will hopefully open the door for an agreement after 10 years of stumbling.

A US State Department statement said that Feltman’s mission includes “the conflict in Tigray; escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan; and the dispute around the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

The Ethiopian National Security Council confirmed Saturday that Addis Ababa will carry out the process of the second filling of GERD as scheduled. This came in a statement issued by the National Security Council after its meeting headed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Egypt and Sudan say they want a legally binding agreement on filling and operating the GERD, while Ethiopia is trying to evade a binding agreement.

The three parties have held several rounds of negotiations over the past decade, but have ultimately failed to reach an agreement.

The construction of the dam, which began in 2011, is considered to be one of Egypt’s most serious water issues.

Egypt, which relies considerably on freshwater from the Nile, has voiced fears that the GERD would negatively impact the country’s water supply, and has insisted that measures be put in place to protect downstream countries in case of drought during the dam’s filling process.

Ethiopia, on the other hand, has stressed the importance of the project to bolster its economy, where more than half of the population currently lives without access to electricity.

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